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Clark talks tough on spending

Premier Christy Clark is vowing to present a balanced budget when the legislature resumes sitting in February. - Black Press files
Premier Christy Clark is vowing to present a balanced budget when the legislature resumes sitting in February.
— image credit: Black Press files

Premier Christy Clark previewed the B.C. government's next budget update Tuesday with a speech to a Coquitlam business audience stressing the virtues of balancing the budget for next year.

Clark's speech to the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce came as Finance Minister Mike de Jong prepared to present the second quarter update of the current budget Wednesday at the legislature. His first-quarter update in September had the province on track for a $1.14 billion deficit for the fiscal year ending in March.

Wednesday's budget update "won't be pretty," Clark said, but the next budget will be balanced despite low natural gas and other resource revenues.

Taking questions after the speech, Clark wouldn't rule out tax increases of all kinds when the next budget is presented in February. She emphasized the need to control personal taxes, and spending controls for government.

"No, we will not cut education, and no we will not cut health care," Clark said, leaving options open for spending cuts in other areas.

With the February budget setting the stage for the May 2013 election, Clark took direct aim at NDP leader Adrian Dix's recent vow to repeal B.C.'s balanced budget law.

"If you don't have a balanced budget law, then deficits become the rule and balanced budgets become the exception," Clark said.

Dix said recently his policy as premier would be to balance budgets over a four-year "business cycle," because the B.C. Liberal era has shown that governments can't cut spending quickly enough when world resource markets take a sudden downturn.

The B.C. government has achieved balanced budgets in only five of the 11 years of B.C. Liberal rule, with the premier and cabinet ministers subject to a 10 per cent pay cut under the balanced budget law.

The current deficit is larger due to repayment of the federal government's $1.6 billion transition fund for the harmonized sales tax. In September, de Jong raised the deficit projection by $173 million, largely due to lower prices and sales for B.C. natural gas.

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